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Trail Ridge Road: Rocky Mountain NP

Climbing to an altitude of 12,183 feet, Trail Ridge Road winds through Rocky Mountain National Park and provides an astounding sampling of multiple ecosystems along the way. This well-kept highway, linking Estes Park, CO and Grand Lake, CO over 48 mountainous miles, is heavily traveled but definitely one for the Great Outdoor bucket list!

We had out-of-town friends arrive in early June from the Carolinas and the plan made months ago was to off-road and camp while they were here. Mother Nature played a wild card, however, with a heavy snowstorm in mid-May that dumped a foot at our house in Fort Collins and two, three, or more feet up in the High Country. (Don’t believe me? Here’s a photo mid-storm down here in the Foothills!)

Anyway, the May 15 snow delayed trail openings across northern Colorado and NOTHING was open for our friends’ visit. But, by sheer luck Trail Ridge Road opened two days prior to their arrival so we made a last minute change in plans and decided to show them Colorado nature in a bit more of an urban setting: rent a cabin in Estes Park for a few days, and drive up Trail Ridge Road in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. (The plethora of sweet Jeeps we met along the way indicated that other off-roaders had the same Plan B!).

Though crowded with tourists, Trail Ridge Road was an amazing experience and provided views of nature from montane forests, to subalpine stands of fir and spruce, to the alpine tundra above treeline. Temps at the summit hovered around 50 degrees F mid-day, the wind was whipping, the snow was deep, and my Lava Jacket came in handy! Here were some of the breathtaking sights -

Chicks on the rocks

After our descent from Rocky Mountain National we spent the next couple days sightseeing around Estes Park.

Just prior to our return home some of the infamous Estes Park elk wandered by our cabin (these photos aren’t the clearest because we kept our distance from the magnificent beasts, but majestic nonetheless).

All in all it was a trip I’d definitely recommend! Expect a wait to get into the park, and crowds along the way, but despite all that the views and fresh mountain air still refresh the soul. Here’s to new experiences and Happy Trails!

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